Understanding RTP and Variance

Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to find out which online slot machine is ready to payout? Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could find that one hidden slot which always pays out? 

Well, in this simple guide we’ll walk you through all you need to know about how to weigh up if a slot game is really worth your time and money. We’ll break down the stuffy terminology and maths which go into calculating how often and how much any online casino game will payout. 

What the heck is RTP? 

When playing games at crypto casinos you’ve probably seen terms like variance and RTP being thrown around. RTP is an abbreviation which stands for Return to Player and is expressed as a percentage. It indicates the percentage of bets which will get returned to a player from a specific casino game. 

Here’s an example of the RTP calculation:

  • A slot game has an RTP of 96% 
  • A player wagers 0.01 BCH for 100 spins, spending 1.00 BCH in total 
  • They will get back 0.96 BCH or 96% of their bets  

As you can see, this gives the casino (or the house) an advantage of 4% over the player. If casino games worked purely in this way then players would constantly lose a small percentage of all their wagering and that wouldn’t be much fun, would it? 

It’s important to understand that RTP is a theoretical calculation based on millions, if not billions of plays of a casino game. It’s a way for crypto casinos to ensure that over the long term a game won’t pay out more than it takes in. 

In reality, things are much more random than this and other factors come into play. Sometimes players will get back more than they wager and other times they won’t. This unpredictability is what gives gambling the element of risk and excitement after all.   

The RTP of online casino games

Each casino game has its own RTP rating which should be easy to find in the game description. They will generally range between 94% and 98% with the average RTP of casino games being around 96%. 

It’s fair to say that anything with an RTP shown at 93% or less isn’t worth your time and money. That’s simply considered to be just too low for regular slot games with progressive jackpots being an exception. 

High RTP slots are considered to be the ones with 97% or even 98% return to player ratings. 

Online casinos should generally have higher RTP games on offer due to the lower overheads they carry compared to their brick and mortar counterparts. 

What is variance and how does it affect casino games? 

As well as RTP, casino games have a variance rating which is sometimes also known as volatility. This rating is another complex mathematical equation which gives an indication of the frequency and size of payouts from a casino game. Or to put it another way, how risky a game is to play.  

Variance can be broken down into basic 3 levels like this: 

Low Variance – the game will pay out smaller amounts more often. 

High Variance – the game will payout larger amounts less often. 

Medium Variance – somewhere in between the two. 

Therefore, looking at the variance will give you a rough idea of how frequently a casino game is going to reward you and how risky it is to play. Using the variance indicator is a good way to find games which suit your casino playing style and budget. 

How is game volatility calculated? 

All slot games come with a volatility index rating. This indicates how volatile the slot is, but unfortunately, this type of information is not something game developers are very willing to share publicly. If you can sneak a look at their official PAR (Program Accounting Report) sheets then you’d find it there but that’s too much like hard work. 

In theory, you could calculate slot machine variance if you know the frequency of symbol combinations and odds or the value attributed to them. In reality, it takes some rather complex mathematical equations to determine the exact volatility of any given casino game.

However, as a casino player here are a few basic factors you can look out for to get a good idea of how volatile an online slot is. 

Look at the paytable and the difference between the payout of 4 of a kind symbols and 5 per line. If 4 symbols of a kind payout low amounts, while 5 of a kind payout much more, like 10 times more, then you can safely assume that it’s a high variance slot. 

If the gap between 3, 4 is 5 of a kind symbols is much less, like 3-5x the payout, then you are most likely looking at a medium or low variance slot.

Look at the max bet possible on any game. High variance slots will tend to come with small max bets. 

Playing in demo mode can also help you to determine slot variance. If you land frequent low-value wins it’s a lower variance slot and vice versa, bigger less frequent wins are offered by medium or high variance slots.

To make things even easier, check out our crypto slot review where we will always list the variance and RTP to help you make the best game choices.

How to choose a game based on RTP and variance

If you combine the RTP and variance ratings of any casino game it can help you determine if it’s a good fit for the way you want to play. Which type of player are you? 

Casual gamers 

If you just want to keep a small budget to play a few spins occasionally then it is best to stick with low variance casino games which have an average RTP rating. Slot games such as Starburst from NetEnt are ideal. This will mean that smaller payouts occur more frequently to ensure that you can sustain your casino bankroll for longer.   

High Rollers 

For players who like the thrill of potential big wins and have the budget to support it, high variance slots will deliver. Casino slot games such as Push Gaming’s Fat Rabbit will eat into your bankroll quickly but can bring some epic rewards. 

Medium style players  

Anyone who wants the prospect of some decent wins and has a medium-sized budget will sit somewhere between the two player types above. Playing medium to high RTP slots is where it’s at. Gonzo’s Quest from NetEnt is the perfect example of a slot for middle-ground players. Capable of big wins but not insanely risky. 

Jackpot chasers 

If you are looking for big, possibly even life-changing wins, then progressive jackpot slots are the way to go. These games will often have very low RTP, think 90% and are known as very high variance slots. These high-risk games have very infrequent payouts which are massive when they do land. 

Taking your time and figuring out which type of online casino playing style you have will give you a much better overall casino gaming experience. It’s a way better approach than simply launching the first game that has a catchy thumbnail!   

Using RTP and variance to your advantage 

These ratings are there just as a guide for each and every casino game but they can be used to help advance your casino play. Here are some top tips on how to use them to get more from casino games. 

  • Use free play/demo modes to try out slot games with different RTP and variance ratings to see what suits you. 
  • Don’t pump funds into a low variance slot game and expect a big win.
  • Equally, there’s little point in expecting an instant big win from high variance slots. 
  • Look for a medium to high RTP slot unless you are chasing jackpots. 
  • Only use the ratings as a guide, no game ever owes you a big win.  
  • Always set a playing budget and stick to it regardless. 

Are casinos cheating their players?

The short answer is…umm no. However, it’s a fair question to ask when you see from the RTP percentage that no casino game is going to give you back 100% of the funds you wager on it. 

Given this, how can we be sure that each turn at an online casino game is truly random and not influenced by the online casino where you play? 

Well for this task we have Random Number Generators or RNGs. They are clever little microprocessors which are capable of producing up to four billion numbers for every single spin of an online slot game. This helps to ensure that each spin is truly random and independent of the previous or next spins.

We can take this one step further at crypto casinos thanks to what’s known as provably fair technology. With this advanced open source tech anyone can check the outcome of each and every bet. In practice, this means that players no longer have to rely on the trust of an online casino to use RNGs. They can also forget the reliance on licencing bodies to enforce the rules as the whole system is open for anyone to inspect. 

It’s also worth knowing that RNGs are incapable of knowing anything about the games they supply the number to. Their only concern is to just produce random outcomes for each and every spin. 

RNGs don’t care who is playing a particular game, how much they are betting, how long they have played the game for if they are using bonus money or even if they are wearing their lucky pants!  

It’s also worth mentioning the strict rules and regulations which online casinos have to adhere to. Depending on where each online casino is licensed it might be regulated in different ways but the idea is always the same – ensure that players are protected and everything is legal. This includes the use of RNGs to make sure that all their casino games are 100% fair for all players. 

So, the next time someone asks you ‘are casinos cheating?’, you’ll know exactly what to tell them. 

What are your chances of winning at casino games?

Thanks to the use of RNGs your actual chances of winning at casino games are just as good (or bad) as anyone else. With each spin being completely independent of the last one there’s no such thing as a hot or cold streak despite what some players might tell you. 

The frequency and size of wins, however, can be indicated by a combination of a games RTP and variance metrics. Just always remember that these ratings are only a rough guide which can go some way to help you manage your bankroll. 

It’s ultimately down to each player to decide their budget and to make sure that they stick to it. Casino games are, by their very nature, games of chance and it’s important to be having fun regardless of your wins or losses. If you’re not enjoying playing any longer then it’s time to stop your casino gaming session.